Constructivism in the Classroom

As someone who enjoys science, how excited do you get to go to History class? What about English class? Probably not very excited. But what if those teachers implemented activities in their classroom with the purpose to get students who enjoy science, like you, interested and involved in their subjects too? That might make things a little better, huh?

Well, science teachers have to make accommodations for students who are the least bit interested in science too! So how do they do that?

The article, “Engaging Non-Science Majors in Biology, One Disease at a Time,” from The American Biology Teacher has some great ideas!

The article states, “One approach to maintaining student interest is inspired by the constructivist view of learning, which posits that individuals interpret new experiences on the basis of previous knowledge and established ideas.”

According to Rebecca Garcia (author of that article), “Constructivism in an educational setting is defined as an active process of learning that incorporates students’ experiences and ideas as motivation to generate knowledge and meaning.”

Here is a video that has some examples of using constructivism in the classroom:

Constructivism: Overview & Practical Teaching Examples – Video & Lesson Transcript |

Here is what Teresa Greely has to say about being a science teacher to non science majors:

Q: So how do we, as science teachers, keep a student’s attention and interest?

A: The constructivist learning cycle!

Never seen this before?

Here’s a 2 min video explaining the whole thing:

  • Engage
    • Students should be making connections between past and present learning and anticipating possible future outcomes

  • Explore
    • Students explore their environment and actively manipulate the materials. Here is where they identify the new processes concept and skills and verbalize those skills.

  • Explain
    • Students are verbalizing the new concepts that they’re forming and the teacher will introduce the formal key terms and definitions.

  • Elaborate
    • Students will practice these new concepts and skills to gain mastery over them and dive deeper in the subject to gain a broader understanding.

  • Evaluate
    • Both the teacher and students assess their new understandings here. A rubric could be presented to evaluate based on predetermined criteria.

Here’s an example of a lesson plan using the constructivist learning cycle:

Goal: To get the students to understand density

Engage: Get a “submarine” (pen cap and modeling clay) to go up and down in a bottle of water.

Explore: Have a bunch of different materials (different sized bottles, different caps, etc.) and have lab groups come up with a combination that works best for this activity.

Explain: Have the lab groups come up with their own definition of density and explain what they found in the explore.

Elaborate: Have the class come up with some examples of how density affects their everyday lives.

Evaluate: Come up with some type of assessment (clicker questions, exit slip , quiz, exam, etc.) to test their knowledge of density.

Here’s the citation to the article if you want to check it out!!

Garcia, R., Rahman, A., & Klein, J. G. (2015). Engaging Non-Science Majors in Biology, One Disease at a Time. The American Biology Teacher, 77(3), 178-183. doi:10.1525/abt.2015.77.3.5.


  1. Katie,
    Great post! I liked how your organized it and broke down the idea of constructivism from the article you looked at. Both of the videos you included were great too and helped with understanding. The second one was especially interesting since my content area is biology and I felt like I could relate with Teresa’s ideas. Your third video was also great for breaking down the 5 E’s. Your lesson plan was also great! I also agree with your tweet and liked how you made it like a real-world scenario!

  2. Katie! Your post is really interesting. With most of my classes recently I’ve been surrounded by students with majors very similar to mine and often times by students who are really focused on science so it’s really interesting to think about trying to reach students who may not be interested in science much at all. I wouldn’t have thought about constructivism as a way to do that. Are there any other ways you plan to get the kids who aren’t into science engaged in your class?

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